Shawn’s dad’s birthday was this weekend, and at his request, the four of us took a drive up to Errol, where I visited the LL Cote store for the first time – a one stop shop for hunting and fishing apparel, camping gear, tools, groceries, guns, gummy bears, Beanie Babies, sunglasses, soap made with beer, and wind chimes made with shell casings. There is a stuffed albino moose there, as well as one of each of the other animals you’d expect to find in northern New Hampshire – black bear, bobcat, beaver (just to stay in the letter B). There is a bumper sticker on one of the cash registers that reads, ‘Vote out every Democrat.’ I read a children’s book called ‘Daddy’s Hunting Story’, in which a father explains to his young daughter how to behave around wild animals, saying, ‘We have to be quiet in the woods… we want to surprise them!’

Our route there and back brought us through 13 Mile Woods, a gorgeous bit of landscape along Route 16 that seemed to sparkle in all directions in the early spring sunshine. We spotted a lot of Canada geese, as well as mallards, mergansers, and wood ducks. On the drive back to Gorham, passing by so many remote camps and homes, I thought about the slogan I read on one of those shell casing wind chimes – ‘We Don’t Call 911.’

I have to admit, visiting LL Cote did feel to me like visiting another planet. Here I am, a tree-hugging, animal-loving, melt-down-all-the-guns, let’s-all-get-along, hippie-dippie peacenik vegan, taking a stroll through the world of folks who are, well, not a whole lot like me…

… but is that really true, though?

We all love this world up here in northern New England. How could you not? It’s beautiful. It’s peaceful. It’s awe-inspiring. And we love it in different ways.

And we all want to feel safe.

Is one of us ‘right’, and the other wrong? I think I have found what works for me, and others think they have found what works for them. I don’t eat animals because I’m not willing to kill them myself. Those who are willing, well, they certainly have my respect.

And yes, of course I will judge – and they will judge, too. That’s what these human minds do. Judge others and ourselves.

And I will continue to keep that same mind open – maybe not open enough to buy a gun or a bar of beer-infused soap… but open enough to literally get my foot in the door to another world, to take a long look around, and to consider the needs of those whose lives, at the end of the day, are not unlike my own.